"Bet You Wish You Had Rule of Law Now"

At The Wall Street Journal, Joseph Sternberg suggests that China’s current struggle to tame its microblogging masses is a problem of its own making, which would never have arisen had authorities followed the law instead of disregarding it for the sake of economic development.

A column published last week in People’s Daily, the Party’s main mouthpiece, is inadvertently revealing. “We have failed to take into sufficient account just how much the Internet is a double-edged sword, and have a problem of allowing technology to advance while administration and regulation lag,” the newspaper said, as quoted by Reuters, the emphasis ours. It’s a telling remark because the italicized [bold, here] portion is false.

The fact is that Sina Weibo already is illegal ….

But now the Party won’t shut down Weibo, or rather, it can’t. The real reason for all the worried official commentary about microblogging is that Beijing has reached a disturbing realization: While the authorities obsessed over controlling the supply of Internet, they lost sight of the demand. That demand for the service Weibo provides—Chinese netizens eat this stuff up!—has made it so popular Beijing must fear a backlash if ever the service were cut off. Hence all the talk about “regulating” Weibo but no talk about the simplest and most clearly legal means of ending the nuisance.

The problem, of course, is that in this instance, the rule of the Party’s law discouraging Internet investment would undermine the growth on which the Party relies for legitimacy. Beijing needs businesses like Sina, whether it wants them or not. Having admitted this to itself more than a decade ago, Beijing finds it’s too late to change its mind now.

See also the following discussion on the issue between Sternberg and Abheek Bhattacharya:

Source: Bet You Wish You Had Rule of Law Now – WSJ.com